Dear Editor:

“The proposed logging plan for Sparta Mountain is not about Forest Health”

Sparta Mountain is classified as a High Conservation Value Forest. One reason for this is the many rare, threatened and endangered species that inhabit the interior forest on Sparta Mountain. This is nothing new, but rather, goes back to the 1990’s when conservation groups and a small group of individuals known as Friends of the Sparta Mountains actually saved the mountain in perpetuity with Green Acres bond funding. This group preserved the land back then, and a large amount of research was done to show how vital this forest is and to keep it as a contiguous forest canopy within an expansive greenway system.

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Sparta Mountain was also preserved because it is an integral part of the Highlands region which provides drinking water to over 6.2 Million NJ residents (70% of the state). It has numerous vernal pools and wetland areas, consisting of Severe Steep Slope Protection Areas and thin soils. Steep slopes and thin soils create a propensity for soil erosion and water runoff. Being a direct source of drinking water, the quality of this water depends on the trees and forest canopy on Sparta Mountain to adequately filter the water as it seeps into the ground, rather than slide off the mountain and create flooding, mudslides and overall an increase in siltation.

The vernal pools and wetlands help immensely with this filtering and are highly negatively impacted by timber logging.

What is also known is that there are more than 50 of NJ’s 200 rare and endangered plant species present on Sparta Mountain.  Since New Jersey Audubon and NJDEP have logged approximately 60 acres on Sparta Mountain already, there is the high likelihood that they have already impacted numerous rare plants.

Since a comprehensive inventory was not performed by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Audubon Society - not a chapter of the National Audubon Society, this alone should be considered negligence by the very department and organization that is supposed to protect the state’s environment in the first place.

One of the many threatened/endangered species on Sparta Mountain is the Barred Owl. This beautiful species lives in interior forests, dependent on the canopy of trees that exist on Sparta Mountain prior to logging. The increase in logging will impact them and many other species and devastate their already fragile, endangered habitat.  So we destroy the habitat for some to create habitat for others? 

The Natural Heritage database has documented many of the rare plant and animal species on Sparta Mountain.  This is supposed to offer protection but the authors and implementers of the plan are choosing to ignore this and other data to carry on with this logging endeavor.  This is not about creating a healthy forest, but about another agenda.

If NJA and NJDEP did their research as conservationists, they would have discovered these facts already. They would have not even begun to clear cut trees on Sparta Mountain. So who is misguided here?  It is not the Friends of Sparta Mountain who are “misguided” and “misinformed”, but it is the authors of the plan.  

Directly from NJ Audubon’s website, “<NJ Audubon> protects New Jersey's birds, mammals, other animals, and plants, especially endangered and threatened species”.

  • Why are NJA and NJDEP ignoring the High Conservation Value Forest classification?
  • Why are they ignoring steep slopes and soil erosion impacts from logging?  
  • Why are they exempt from protective regulations?  
  • Why are they more concerned about game birds than the endangered species that rely on the intact forest canopy of an already diverse existing healthy forest?  

Do not be fooled with the notion that Sparta Mountain is not a healthy forest…it is already a healthy forest if we practice true ecological forest management and STOP the CHOP on Sparta Mountain!

To hear from PhD forest ecologists and other experts in the field see our video from the “If the chop here, they’ll chop everywhere” Jan 26th 2017  town hall event at www.savespartamountain.org or go to FB@FriendsofSpartaMountain

From the Friends of Sparta Mountain

Sparta, NJ